Seventeen years ago a young couple arrived in Los Angeles with a dream: to reach out to fellow Jews who might be unaffiliated, who might be disconnected from their heritage and their faith, who might want to learn about what it means to be Jewish through educational, cultural, social and spiritual activities in a warm, non-judgmental, supportive community. And so, Chabad of Greater Los Feliz was born, one of over three thousand similar Chabad Centers around the world.
Rabbi Leibel Korf and his wife Dvonye started their first Chabad House in their own home, at 1944 N. Berendo Street in what was then the not-so-fashionable East Side of Los Angeles. With their six-month old baby Mendel at their side, they opened their doors and celebrated their first Shabbos in August 1998 with only two guests, neighborhood Jews who were pleasantly surprised by a dinner invitation from their community’s energetic new rabbi and rebbitzen. By that September, there were 25 people for High Holiday services. A few weeks later, over fifty people showed up for dinner in the Korfs’ backyard Sukkah. Soon, there was a Hebrew School in the living room, adult education classes at the dining room table, and a minyan for Shabbat.
Slowly, the Korfs built strong relationships in a neighborhood that was turning into one of the hippest, liveliest and fastest-growing in Los Angeles. By July of 1999, when the Korfs moved into their present home at 1932 New Hampshire, the Chabad of Greater Los Feliz was still in the living room, but they now were providing educational and social programs to hundreds of local Jews. Speakers came to visit Los Feliz, there was a Lag B’Omer picnic in Griffith Park, and even the first sleepover Shabbaton at the Ramada Inn. By Rosh Hashana that year, there were so many worshippers the Rabbi had to rent a hall to accommodate them.
In 2000, the Korfs opened their first true Chabad House, a storefront at 1727 N. Vermont Avenue. For five and a half years the little synagogue and community center in the mini-mall served neighborhood Jews with the Korfs’ trademark warmth and supportive spirit. Locals and visitors alike learned that they were always still welcome for Shabbos meals at the Korfs’ table, and if, G‑d forbid, they were hospitalized at any of the nearby hospitals, they and their families were never alone. The Korfs were always there to provide spiritual support, delicious kosher food, and religious services free of charge to anyone who needed them.
Chabad of Greater Los Feliz moved into its beautiful new building at 1930 Hillhurst Avenue in February of 2006. In the past years, through the generosity of the Rosenthal family and all of our other wonderful contributors, Oma’s Center (named for Martha Levisohn Auerbach, Phil Rosenthal’s grandmother) has attracted even more worshippers, students and eager members of our neighborhood’s thriving Jewish community. Rabbi Korf and Dvonye still feed us all, physically and spiritually, and now with six beautiful children they still open their home and their hearts to all of us.
Recently, Rabbi Korf began a special program at Children’s Hospital, called the Rebbitzen Raichik Child First program, which offers a variety of services to children undergoing treatment and their families. We offer books, videos and storytelling, arts and crafts, and play activities for children of all ages, with three full-time volunteers at the hospital. We urge you to contact us whenever you have family or friends who need our help at a time we know can be so stressful and difficult.
Chabad of Greater Los Feliz serves one of the most diverse Jewish communities in the United States, and certainly one of the most diverse Chabad Houses. The Korfs serve the young and the old, singles and families, working people and retirees, newlyweds and widows, Russians, Israelis, French. Latinos, blacks, whites, hipsters, converts, children – all of whom share a common faith and a common goal: to connect through Judaism to each other, to our heritage, to ourselves, and to G‑d.
We wish you and our entire community continued blessings. May the past ten years be only the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship, as together we help Judaism to thrive in this special corner of the world, and hasten the coming of Moshiach with every mitzvah.